Authors: Lila Felix
“It smells like a garbage dump in here,” the look of determination on her face terrified me. She was dressed like she was a high level executive, all pencil skirt and pearls even though everyone knew she was a country club rat.
I laughed it off, “Come on, you’re being dramatic.”
She closed her eyes and exhaled, “Breaker, I have to.” She looked down and shook her head.
“No, Mom. I’ll take care of it,” I could feel my innards begin their quaking and quivering at just the thought of a new person in my house. An elephant sat on my chest and the little beating mouse thumped furiously against the weight.
God, what if I had a panic attack in front of them and they thought I was a freak?
take care of it. This,” she pointed to the kitchen behind me, “is what happens when you take care of things lately. This was not part of the deal. I’m sorry if you don’t like it. Just one more thing to talk to Angela about. Tell her your mother forces you to be hygienic.”
She always did this. She thought that the psychologist came to the house and all we did was talk about how bad of a mother I had and that must be the root of my challenge. That wasn’t it at all but there was no convincing her lately. She’d convinced herself if she’d paid more attention to Holly’s antics she could’ve prevented my downfall. Hell, I couldn’t stop it, how could she?
“What are you gonna do,”
Come on logic, work your magic.
“Put an ad in Craigslist? What would it say? Wanna clean for a guy who is a slob and—insane?”
“Don’t do that Breaker. But yes, that’s exactly what I intend to do. I’ll have to ask Navy about it since I’m not good at the computer stuff. She’ll know what to do. I’m also going to put some flyers up at LSU. So, I will narrow the people down to a few and then I will send them over here for interviews,” she held up her hand before my mouth could protest, “I will schedule it so you know they are coming but this is happening, honey, so just get over it.”
She left me silent and stunned until the reality of what she said crashed down on me, “Shit!”
Annoying—that was the word used most often to describe me. I’ve heard the whole gambit: pesky, irritating, vexing, bothersome and my favorite, galling. That one was used on me by the teacher who used to run the S.A.T. class after school. He called me galling and then told us to write that word down and then use it in a sentence. But good, old fashioned annoying was the word Tracy used this morning, not so politely explaining to me why she didn’t want me in her study group.
“You just talk too much. I mean, some people just wanna be quiet. And you think you’re really funny, but we really just don’t. I’m sorry. I’m sure Professor Landry will put you in another group.” She hung up afterwards, not even a goodbye. And it was me who was annoying?
This was nothing I hadn’t heard before. I was obnoxious. I talked too much. My voice was too high pitched. I sounded like Minnie Mouse—too soprano, especially when I was happy or thoroughly pissed off. My voice has been compared to a meth-laden prairie dog, a hamster caught in a wheel and King Adrock from the Beastie Boys. The latter of which I kinda liked. Who doesn’t love King Adrock? I was too needy—too desperate for friendship. I showed affection too frequently. I trusted too easily and I trusted everyone. I tried to help people, sometimes even to my own detriment. I got run over—a lot. I had some tattoo on my forehead, only visible to the users that read ‘run me over’. I called it loyalty and kindness. So that’s why, at a young age, I gave up on friends. I kept my head down and my hopes high. I spent my time alone, smothered by books and music until I got to college. It was then, isolated in a new city, I realized I needed some people to rely on.
Now I had Stephanie, but ever since one of my Dad’s businesses had gone under and he couldn’t pay for my dorm room anymore, I only had two more weeks with her as my roommate before I would have to find another place to live. That was gonna suck. I had a job lined up at a local restaurant but I only had enough money for rent; most places wanted first and last month’s rent plus a deposit. I didn’t know what I would do.
Stephanie plopped on her bed, her long blonde hair fanning out around her as she threw her torso onto her pillow.
“Studying is the pits Ashland. Let’s go get ice cream.”
I tied up my shoes, getting ready to visit the library. Ice cream was her stress release, talking was mine. But since I’d been so joyfully reminded that I gabbed too much already once today, I decided not to press my luck. Not that she cared. She knew who I was and loved me anyway.
“I gotta go study,” I forced my voice to speak at an octave lower, determined not to sound like a rabid feline.
She waved at me, a pageant wave. I grabbed my backpack and left. Now without the group to study with, I needed to buckle down especially since I’d loaned my completed study guide to Matt, one of the study group members. I was
even attempting to get it back. I may be a tad bit more self-confident than I was before—but I was far from stupid. This was my third year at LSU and I was determined to graduate on time. I intended to be a vet but sometimes it felt like I was walking uphill—and I was out of shape.
Every single semester, something tripped me up. The first day of class, my first semester of freshman year, the teacher announced in front of the class that I had a delinquent account and needed to leave and visit the Bursar’s office. But when I got there, I was told it was a small error to my account and no big deal. Too late—there was already a large dent in my pride. I ended up dropping that class and entering one where my confidence hadn’t been pancaked.
The second semester, I waited too long to order my books because I was working over break to pay for them and the bookstore was out of stock. So, while waiting for my books to arrive, I spent the first two weeks of class looking over the shoulder of a grungy guy who I swore had pesto sauce in his ear—every—single—day.
I finally made it to the library. The LSU library smelled like old musty books. It was such a great smell. The elevators were over forty years old and their rusty hinges wailed in warning for me to take the stairs or possibly plummet to my death. I took the stairs to the basement where I searched for the little room that sold older books and magazines for a dime a piece. I never bought any, since I had no place to put them, but it was nice to look. The vintage housewife books always cracked me up. I quit my useless shopping and made my way upstairs to get down to business. I found a table on the second floor by the mostly for show reference books and took up residence. I cracked open my textbook and started in on cell walls and cytoplasm.
Hours and chapters later, I stretched and decided to call it a night. LSU wasn’t the safest place at night and I needed to get back to the dorms before the creepers came out to play. After all, I was the girl who trusted even the most suspicious looking stranger—axe murderer bait. On my way out, I decided to check the bulletin board for jobs and apartments. I saw mostly ‘get rich quick’ flyers printed on neon green paper with pull off phone number tags. But on the bottom right corner, on cream colored paper embossed with the initials ANC, with the C the largest, was a handwritten note with the words ‘Live In Maid Needed’ across the top. It threw me off amongst the other cold, computer printed flyers and piqued my interest simultaneously.
The name Anya was written with a phone number and instead of scribbling the information down on a sheet of paper; I ripped the note from the corkboard and stuffed it in the pocket of my jeans. I didn’t want anyone else to get wind of this opportunity before me—sucker punch move. I got back to the dorm after picking up a sandwich from the Union. When I arrived back in my dorm room, Stephanie was passed out cold with a highlighter still in her hand and a cup of melted chocolate ice cream on the desk next to her bed.
I had eaten my sandwich on the way back. I looked at the clock and decided it was too late to call the number on the paper, no matter how much it intrigued me. I folded it in thirds and placed it in the top drawer of my desk for safe keeping. I grabbed my toothbrush, toothpaste and a towel and tip-toed in to the communal bathroom down the hall; listening for suspicious sounds.
One episode of my messed up freshman year I named ‘Shower Surprise’ in which I tried to take a shower—big mistake.
I had just stepped into the warm, sputtering spray and pulled the curtain behind me and started to wash my hair when I heard the ruckus outside the flimsy barrier. I heard bodies tripping over each other and flesh slamming into walls. Then the other tell-tale sounds started. College love conquests were pretty noisy. If I hadn’t already had a head full of shampoo, I would’ve bolted immediately. I rinsed my foamy head as quickly as possible and scrambled out, eyes squeezed shut. I ran back to my room in only a towel at the exact moment a group of people returned from a pep rally. I endured the cat calls until I reached my room.
I set my alarm and took showers at four a.m. now.
I brushed my teeth at one of twenty white sinks in a row and went back to my tiny dorm room. Somehow Stephanie had managed to write on her face in neon pink while I was gone. I took the highlighter from her hand and lay it on the desk. After returning to the hallway to throw away her ice cream soup, I changed into my pajamas and fell asleep.
The alarm sounded at four a.m. and I rolled out of bed to take a shower. I snuck back to the room without being noticed—score. Stephanie always slept late, so I slunk through the room pulling on a purple tank top and my low rise jeans with the holes in the knees. I tore through my straight black hair and misted myself with the closest body spray in my drawer. I wiggled into some black flip flops, grabbed my backpack and the note from the drawer, turned the knob silently and headed out. There was one coffee shop open at the buttcrack of dawn around here and it was calling my name.
There was a guy in there named Ozark and the moment I walked in the door he ducked behind the cappuccino machine and emerged a few minutes later with my favorite drink in his hand. He’d written his phone number on my cup several times. I just didn’t feel that initial attraction—which was weird since he was exactly my type. I wanted to walk into a room and have my breath taken away. And I wanted to take his breath away, whoever he was and it just wasn’t happening with Ozark. I sat at a corner table and tried to ignore the stare of the barista and study. After a while, I saw him take off his apron and approach the table.
“Hey, I’m on my break. You mind if I sit here,” he asked. I moved my books, shoving my notes into the textbook and pulling them towards me.
“Um, yeah,” since he was already seated.
What was I supposed to say? “No, go away.”
We made small talk, well I made small talk, he nodded, until a girl with red hair called his name and pointed to her watch. I took the opportunity to gather my things and call the number on the flyer, letter, note, whatever it was.
“Hello, Collins residence,” a poised voice greeted me.
“Hello, my name is Ashland Cormier. I am calling in regards to the flyer in the library—the live in maid.”
She huffed out a breath over the line and replied, “Good manners, I like you already. When can you come for an interview?”
I checked my watch. Today was my free day from scheduled classes. “I am available all day today.”